It’s Dangerous To Go Alone! Take This… Companion App!

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When video games first started and you got stuck at some place during your game, you didn’t have much of a choice as to what to do or where to turn for answers or help. You just had grind your way through, or keep trying things until you “got it”. Then, during the Nintendo age of gaming, you could call a help line or a tip line and speak to experts who would tell you how get past that boss that seemed undefeatable.

If your parents didn’t let you call those numbers (after all, $1.99 a minute for help on a video game in the 80s wasn’t all that cheap), perhaps you turned to your trusty strategy guide for some helpful tips or to look over a map of the area you were traveling to reveal the secret rooms to get the best loot. Strategy guides remain a popular collectible today for many games, but there are other ways still.

…after all $1.99 a minute for help on a video game in the 80s wasn’t all that cheap…

In this day and age, you have many choices of where to turn for help such as online FAQs, complete walkthrough guides, roadmaps, and even YouTube to watch someone else play through the part you might be stuck on. Whatever your gaming aid of choice might be, it seems one of the most prevalent trends is official companion apps. Yes, developers everywhere are looking to aid gamers & augment your game play by providing you that second screen experience, whether it be for useful maps, level intelligence, inventory management, or even complete game control. Here’s where we dive into some of the various companion apps I’m familiar with and perhaps some you might not even know about!

In this day and age you have many choices of where to turn for help…

CompanionApps

My VERY first experience with a companion app was on my PlayStation 4 using the Knack’s Quest app on my Android cell phone. It was a cute little match 3 game where your progression earned you items & jewels that you could then transfer to Knack in-game to help you in your quest. I thought the idea was brilliant, as I could get a pint-sized dose of my game, earn some items, and know it was going to help me overall in the main game. That was just one example, here are a few more.

Ratchet and Clank: Before the Nexus
Along the same idea of Knack’s Quest is Ratchet and Clank: Before the Nexus. This companion app plays just like a mini game where you find yourself playing as Ratchet, rail grinding your way through various missions and levels earning bolts & Raritanium. The game itself is great and provides countless hours of challenges, but the cool thing here is that the Raritanium can be transferred to your Ratchet & Clank: Enter the Nexus PlayStation 3 game.

Star Wars Battlefront Companion
Another one along the lines of a mini game is the Battlefront companion app. This one allows you to play a game named Base Command where you must defend your base round-by-round against incoming Imperial troops using various, randomly drawn cards. Upon winning, the credits you earn in the mini game can then be used in the Battlefront game on your PlayStation 4. In addition to the in-game earnings, the app also allows you to track your stats and character progression. More than just a mini game, this app starts to blur the lines between game linking & character management.

BEYOND Touch
Another nice way developers are working in companion apps is to make them almost the center of the game. One way to achieve this is to make your phone the controller. The BEYOND Touch app does just that when you’re playing BEYOND: Two Souls. As long as your PlayStation 3 and phone are on the same Wi-Fi network, you can control the entire gameplay through the app.

Until Dawn: Your Companion
Adding more than just game control is nice, and one of the growing trends of companion apps is to provide you additional details about your gameplay, statistics, and collectibles you’ve earned. The Until Dawn: Your Companion app helps you do just that. It’ll track the choices & behaviors you’ve made in-game, provide background & history on the story and characters, and allow you to unlock secrets and review collectibles from your gameplay. It really is a great app for a game where your progress is really shrouded in mystery.

Skylanders Collection Vault
Here’s an app that has the collector in mind. In the growing realm of the toys to life genre of games, Skylanders is king. And to be king, you must have a great app to help your fan base keep track of their collection, and the Skylanders app does just that. It allows you to scan or search for the various figures you own, including chase variants and exclusives, and add them to your digital library. The app itself is well designed with great detail to graphics, music and a nice menu system.

Destiny
Now for a game as big as Destiny you’d hope the companion app is just as big. Well, guess what, you’re right. The Destiny companion app is pretty much the antithesis of what a companion app can and should do. For starters, the app provides you all the latest news and updates happening in the Destiny world so you never have to go searching the blogs (except PS Nation of course) to find anything out about the game. In addition to this, you get complete character management from stat tracking to equipment selections and even item previews. And it doesn’t stop there, you also get full inventory management of character items and vault storage with the ability to transfer character to character even. Lastly, you can also preview a ton of in-game content such as current bounties, challenges, vendor offers, etc. so you don’t even have to load up the game to see what’s changed with the daily resets.

Fallout Pip-Boy
Not to be outdone by Destiny, Fallout 4 steps up to the plate with its own take on a companion app. The Fallout Pip-Boy, named after the in-game electronic wrist computer, allows you to perform a ton of character checks including stat tracking, inventory checking, reading maps etc. In addition, you can play several mini-games within the app itself as if you were accessing them from a computer terminal. Perhaps the coolest feature, which isn’t even really part of the app, is that you can install this on your phone, and if you purchased the Fallout 4 Pip-Boy Collector’s Edition, you can put your phone in the replica Pip-Boy and attach it to your forearm just like your in-game character. This is a first I’ve seen where a collector’s edition & companion app recreate the in-game aesthetics almost seamlessly.

Assassin’s Creed Black Flag
What do you do when you’ve had a franchise that’s been around for several iterations and need to breathe some new life into it? You make a companion app to help players out, of course. Ubisoft did just that with the entry for Assassin’s Creed Black Flag. Again, splitting between in-game connections and character management, this app does a great deal for you to keep you connected to your game when not actually playing the game. With the now de facto standards for in-game map access, character tracking, progression tracking, you can expect all that from this app. In addition, you can also manage your fleet so that you can earn more rewards once you return to the main game. One nice feature is that these link up with your Uplay account (now Club Ubisoft) so that you can get even more intelligence about the game and even help out your Uplay friends as well.

Assassin’s Creed Unity
Very similar to Ubisoft’s first outing, the companion app to their follow-up title Assassin’s Creed Unity holds many of the same features as Black Flag. Offering map exploration, database lookups, and equipment management, you’ll find yourself right at home with this one. One nice addition is the mini game Glyph puzzles you’ll find as you progress through the game that become available in the app. Solving these puzzles earns you additional missions to complete with more opportunity to increase character stats and earnings.

Watch_Dogs
Yet another entry from Ubisoft into the companion app world is for Watch_Dogs, this time with a bit of a twist. Instead of giving you the ability to track & manage your character, this app turns the tables and allows you to assume control of ctOS and become an operative for the city. You can then challenge other players who are live in the main Watch_Dogs game, across any platform including PC, as they attempt to outwit & outsmart the various traps & resources Chicago has to offer that you throw at them. Certainly a unique take on companion app and core game engagement.

Honorable Mentions
Here are a few apps that I used that are, unfortunately, no longer supported but provided a unique experience I found cool & useful.

The first being the LootTheWorld app for Borderlands 2. This allowed you to scan barcodes from real world products which in turn created a weapon or item you could then transfer to your main game. I found it fun to scan different grocery items to see if my can of corn would create a better weapon than the jar of spaghetti sauce.

CODAW1

Yet another character stat tracking app perhaps for the largest video game franchise of all time was for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Again, very similar to the many character & stat tracking features the other apps provided but geared specifically towards your CoD character & experience.

So, as you can see, the world of gaming has shifted from trial & error to a completely digital experience. They look to help you experience your games in a whole new way and augment your game play with more intelligence, better resources, and keeping you connected to the gaming universe when you’re not in front of your console. With the list of companion app growing as new games are released, do you see these as a good thing for gamers in general? Do you find yourself using or not using the apps to help you in your game? Do you think the whole idea is just overrated, or do you have a favorite companion app that we may not know about that you think is better than sliced bread? Swing by our forums and join in the discussion about companion apps, we’d love to hear your thoughts & feedback!

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  • elchorno

    A lot of good information. Thanks Ben!
    I would also mention the Gran Turismo 6 Track Editor app that’s available for tablets. It works extremely well.